Down through the years I have noticed there seem to be two kinds of gun owners — those who own guns for the simple purpose of hunting and killing game and others who are collectors, interested mostly in guns from a standpoint of pride in ownership.
I belong to the first group. There is no telling how many guns I have owned and shot down through the years, trying, I suppose, to find the perfect gun but never having actually run up on it.
Quail hunting, my first and greatest love, caused me to own and use many guns. The gun that served me best was a real hybrid, a relatively scarce Model 10 Remington pump. This gun was first owned by a friend of my dad, a fine gentleman sportsman named Tom Ladd. Mr. Tom got interested in trap shooting back in the middle Twenties and bought this Model 10 with a 32-inch full-choked ribbed barrel. It also had a straight grip (no pistol) stock with not much drop that made it point somewhat like a walking stick.
After tiring of trap, he had this gun sawed off to 25 inches and a little brass bead sight soldered back on. No thought whatever was given to re-choking it, which left it as wide open as it is possible to leave one. He disliked it enough to virtually give it to Dad and Dad gave it to me, he being a born-again double gun man.
I could shoot this gun on quail better than any gun I had ever owned or borrowed. I got absolutely deadly with it and set my personal record with it on birds bagged on a covey rise.
I can visualize the event today. My little setter Shot pointed in a corn field and when I walked in to shoot, birds began getting up two or three at a time. I worked that old Model 10 like a man shucking corn and when the birds had all flown and the gun was empty, I had bagged six quail without moving out of my tracks.
Like an idiot, I eventually swapped this wonderful weapon off for an almost new Montgomery Ward labeled 12 gauge pump that I never could shoot with any great degree of success.
I later on swapped off one of those rare old Model 8 .35-caliber Remington autoloading rifles. This was the one that old-timers will remember. The oversized barrel sleeve slammed back when you fired it and had about the same amount of proper balance as a crutch. Nevertheless, I could kill buck deer with it. Over maybe three seasons in Mississippi and Arkansas, I bagged eight nice bucks with eight shots. Nevertheless, I sold it off and bought a new Remington pump in the same caliber that I never could shoot well. I would give quite a lot to have that old Model 8 back, even if I never shot it again.
Something else about good shooting that is often overlooked, especially with shotgunning, is that guns perform quite differently with a change in shot size. For example, my present-day turkey gun, a monster 10-pound Franchi 3-inch Magnum autoloader, patterns beautifully with No. 4 shot but scatters No. 6 badly and does very little better with No. 5. I have been smart enough to stick with No. 4, but fairly recently I learned another quirk about this gun. It handles the old standard ⅞ ounces of shot in the Double XX load much better than it does the newer turkey load with 2 ounces of shot. I learned this by missing a turkey and then re-patterning the gun and finding that it scattered the 2-ounce load quite wildly while holding the older load of 1⅞ ounces of shot in an almost perfect spread. This occurs sometimes just by changing brands of shells even though the load may be the same. It is always best to hunt with the exact same shell that patterns best with your gun.
The serious hunter will always take time to re-pattern a deer rifle before each new hunting season. Failure to do so leads to calamity, at least some of the time. A few years back I failed to follow this rule and missed a buck deer standing dead still broadside in front of me at 30 steps. He got away so fast that I never even fired again. Later that day I re-sighted the rifle and found that it was shooting 14 inches low at 30 yards!